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Communique: Classic Pop & Doo-Wop In "Smokey Joe's Cafe" | Brunswick Little Theatre

Brunswick Little Theatre
Gentlemen singers (and dancers!) from Smokey Joe's Cafe

Brunswick Little Theatre in Southport presents Smokey Joe's Cafe, the musical revue featuring classic tunes from the mid 20th century. Director Cal Chiang joined us to talk about the show; hear his interview above or see the transcript below. Online tickets for the show are sold out, but there may be some tickets floating around-Sugar Confections in Shallotte and Ricky Evans Art Gallery in Southport may still have some. The show runs through June 25, with Thursday-Saturday performances at 7:30pm, Sundays at 3:00pm. 

Gina: I spoke with Cal Chiang, the director for Brunswick little Theatre's production of Smokey Joe's Cafe onstage in June. I asked Cal how he became a theater director. 

Credit WHQR/gg
Cal Chiang

Cal: Well that happened quite a long time ago. I lived in New York for a long time and I had been taking classes in Manhattan, dance classes. And I have done and performed in a number of shows, and I decided to go into education. It just evolved.
I went from dancing to choreography and then to directing which I've been doing for over 35 years. I have worked with schools, I work with community and regional theater, and I've done choreography for cabaret acts in Manhattan. So that's my background essentially. 
Gina: Have you worked with Brunswick a little theater before? 
Cal: I did "Shrek" with them two years ago. However we performed that show at Odell Williamson at the community college. They are in the process of buying this building an old church. It's a very intimate venue. I'd say it seats about 88. And this [Smokey Joe's] is a full fledged musical where we're going to have a five piece band onstage and 10 actors and actresses. I'm working with an amazing set construction person and we have basically transformed theater into what looks like a New York tenement. It's very cool. Very cool. 
Gina: So tell me about Smokey Joe's Cafe. 

Credit Brunswick Little Theatre
Ladies from Smokey Joe's Cafe

Cal: Oh it's a great review. It's a great musical revue. Leiber and Stoller are the two songwriters and they wrote prolifically in the 50s and 60s, wonderful music, and it's stuff that I personally grew up with and probably my generation. I would say it's the root of rock and roll. It is just the road for the Drifters coasters all those boy groups at that time 50s and 60s. They wrote for Elvis Presley. There are songs like "Love Potion Number Nine"…"There Goes My Baby," "Loving You" for Elvis Presley, "Hound Dog." There's so many. So it is really a show that is going to be-will bring my generation back you know very nostalgic. But I think it's good for the younger generation to see where rock n roll, from whence it came. It's music that really gets you going. It's really fun. 

Gina: Is there dancing. 
Cal: Yes. 
Gina: And you choreographed it?
Cal: Yes. 
Cal: Tell me about the dancing. 
Cal: Well if you think about the boy groups and the backup groups, that's basically the dancing, so it's not all out dancing, although there are two numbers that really require more dance. But it's just like background doo wop type movements. We built fire escapes into building, so they're what we call fire escape dancing. And it was a challenge because most of the men don't have that background, and they work very hard to make it look precise. And they've pretty well succeeded. Michael Stringer is my musical director and he conducts the band and has worked with the pit band, he has really worked with all of the actors. Luckily my men belong to a barbershop quartet and things, so the harmonies came fairly easily to everybody. 
Gina: The biggest challenge was to get those barbershop men to dance.
Cal: To dance. And they're just loving it right now. Hopefully they're listening...
Gina: That was Cal Chiang, director of Smokey Joe's Cafe at Brunswick Little Theatre, onstage this weekend and next. Online tickets are sold out. But there may be a few tickets out there-at the sugar confections in Shalotte or Ricky Evans Art Gallery in Southport. Good luck, and find details at WHQR.org.